Turkey‘s presidential spokesperson has said a major offensive targeting Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib could cause a new refugee crisis from Turkey to Europe.
“Everyone’s common point is that the solution must be political rather than military,” Ibrahim Kalin said in the capital Ankara, after a preparatory meeting with representatives of France, Germany and Russia in advance of an upcoming four-party summit on Syria.
Kalin said that there is a general consensus that the consequences of a full-scale military attack on Idlib will cause humanitarian crises and a new wave of refugees.
He said on Friday that his government seeks to maintain Idlib’s current status, protect civilians, and prevent a humanitarian crisis in Idlib.
“Of course, a new wave of migration would not only put a burden on Turkey. It could cause a new chain of crises from here to Europe. Therefore, nobody wants this,” he stressed.
The bombing of Idlib will be “unacceptable,” the presidential spokesperson said.
“Our expectation here from the international community and the leaders is that they give more open and clear support to Turkey,” he added.
He also added that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan‘s upcoming visit to the Russian city of Sochi on Monday and efforts afterwards were of high importance.
Since the beginning of September, at least 30 civilians have been killed in Idlib and Hama, and dozens injured, by air raids and attacks by the Syrian government and Russian warplanes, according to activists on the ground.
Damascus has recently announced plans to launch a major military offensive to the area, long controlled by various armed opposition groups.
The UN warns that such an offensive would lead to the “worst humanitarian catastrophe in the 21st century.”
Thousands of people have taken to the streets across Idlib on Friday to protest against a potential full-fledged offensive by government forces and their allies.
Activists told Al Jazeera that Friday’s demonstrations took place in more than two dozen towns and villages in the province that is home to more than three million people.
In early September, the forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad launched an intense campaign of shelling, air raids and barrel-bombing of opposition-held territories. The Russian-backed bombardment has receded over the past few days.